Death row inmate seeking new trial

Ward Brockman was 22 years old when a judge sentenced him to death for the June 27, 1990, slaying of a Columbus gas station attendant.

Now 38, Brockman appeared before a Muscogee County Superior Court judge on Tuesday in the hope he might get another trial.

A jury convicted Brockman in 1994 of killing Billy Lynn, 53, who worked at the Premium Oil Service Station at 5096 Forrest Road. Brockman and three others initially faced murder charges.

According to police, Brockman pointed a .38-caliber at Lynn and demanded cash. Lynn told Brockman “You’ve got it” before the latter fired his gun.Brockman, who was 18 at the time, said the shooting was an accident.

Savannah, Ga., attorney Steven L. Sparger told Judge Gil McBride on Tuesday that Brockman’s claim the gun’s discharge was an accident was enough to have the jury informed of it.

“It was not only his sole defense, it was required,” Sparger said. “It should have been given. This case could be coming back on that alone.”

That argument is one of 80 reasons why Brockman should have another trial defense attorneys argue in court filings. Other arguments include claims that the trial judge should have declared a mistrial when prosecutors mentioned other crimes that had been ruled inadmissible and that the judge didn’t tell jurors they could have found Brockman guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder, noting that a co-defendant pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.

Potential problems

Assistant District Attorney David Helmick argued that if Brockman intends to raise the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel, he should do it now. Helmick said that attorney Richard Hagler, who represented Brockman at trial and for the current proceedings, should be removed.

“There’s no reason he needs to be on the case now,” Helmick said. “This is a subterfuge, really. It certainly appears that they’re trying to lay ground for ineffective assistance of counsel.”

McBride, however, said that a motion asking that Hagler be removed was nine years old and that he didn’t intend to rule on that issue on Tuesday.

Concerning the motion for new trial, Sparger asked the judge for six months before his written arguments are due. McBride said he wanted them in four months and gave prosecutors two months after that to respond in writing.

Once those written briefs are in, attorneys on both sides will again argue before the judge.